WADESBORO, N.C. (WBTV) – Video obtained by WBTV shows the husband of a candidate for local office in Anson County repeatedly escorting voters in to cast their ballot.
The video was captured by security cameras outside and inside the Anson County Board of Elections building, which served as the county’s lone early voting location for the 2020 election.
The new footage comes to light after dozens of complaints were filed in the county alleging John Montgomery and others were approaching voters in the parking lot, offering to help them vote, going in with them and casting their ballot.
Montgomery’s wife, Dannie Montgomery, was the Democratic candidate for register of deeds in this year’s election. As of Thursday evening—prior to final absentee ballots and valid provisional ballots being cast—Montgomery trailed by more than 500 votes behind an unaffiliated challenger.
In the videos, Montgomery is seen walking in with the voter, who gets a ballot from an election worker, and then proceeds to a voting booth.
One video shows Montgomery marking the ballot for a voter, who is standing behind Montgomery with his hands in his pockets.
Other videos show Montgomery standing behind voters as they mark their ballot.
State law says anyone can receive assistance to vote from a family member but voters can only ask non-relatives to vote if they have specific disabilities:
- A voter who, on account of physical disability, is unable to enter the voting booth without assistance.
- A voter who, on account of physical disability, is unable to mark a ballot without assistance.
- A voter who, on account of illiteracy, is unable to mark a ballot without assistance.
- A voter who, on account of blindness, is unable to enter the voting booth or mark a ballot without assistance.
It is not clear whether any of the voters seen with Montgomery in the video qualified for assistance under the law.
Multiple emails and a phone call to Dannie Montgomery went unreturned as of early Thursday evening.
‘More than problematic’
The Anson County Board of Elections held an emergency meeting on October 23 to address the myriad complaints of improper assistance.
According to the minutes of the meeting on October 23, county election staff had already distributed a letter from the board of election chairman reiterating the statutes governing voter assistance.
The meeting minutes showed county board members voted to verbally warn the campaigns of the rules again during that meeting.
But the complaints of Montgomery and associates improperly escorting voters into the early voting location continued, records show.
“They pulled these people aside and told them to quit doing it. And I totally understand some people were rookies at this and they were over eager and didn’t know they couldn’t do it, but then they were on notice and they kept doing it and it seems like the county board did nothing about it,” attorney Josh Howard said after watching the videos.
Howard previously spent three years as chairman of the North Caroline State Board of Election and, before that, served as a federal prosecutor.
“They guy kept coming in and kept coming in and kept coming in,” Howard said of Montgomery.
“If you were still on the NCSBE, you would find what’s on this video problematic?” a WBTV reporter asked.
“More than problematic,” Howard said. “The state board of elections has no ability to prosecute themselves but they have resources to investigate these kinds of things and they can also just go ahead and call in state and federal authorities, and I can easily see a criminal referral to either district attorneys or, what in this case would be, the western district US Attorney’s Office.”
A spokesman for the NCSBE had previously said an investigator was in Anson County looking into the complaints.
The state board also sent a press release on the final day of early voting reiterating guidelines for assisting voters.
Reached Wednesday, the same state board spokesman was unaware that any video existed inside the early voting location and did not respond to a request for comment after a WBTV reporter sent the ten video clips.
County board of elections denies video exists, deletes video after request
A WBTV reporter first requested video that would show Montgomery assisting voters inside the early voting location late on the evening of October 27.
The next morning, county elections chairman James Paxton called and said there was no such video. He reiterated that in a second phone call.
County elections director Sherry Melton sent an email that same day reiterating that there was no video.
“…camera, video, etc. are not allowed in voting enclosure,” Melton wrote in an email.
Melton doubled down on the fact that there was no video inside the voting area in a second email on October 28, saying “We have video cameras that are pointing in the direction of the campaigning area.”
Melton sent a third email on October 29 reiterating that all of the board’s video cameras were pointing in the parking lot.
“…the cameras are actually pointing in the campaigning area,” she said.
The video obtained by WBTV shows voting activity inside the early voting location.
Both Paxton, the elections chairman, and Melton continued to deny that there was any video inside the voting location on Thursday, even after a WBTV reporter told both of them the station had obtained such video.
“As states in our previous conservation, there are no video/cameras in Anson County Board of Elections voting enclosure,” Melton wrote on Thursday.
Neither Melton nor Paxton responded to other questions regarding the video showing Montgomery voting for or standing near voters inside the early voting location.
A lawyer for Anson County told WBTV on Thursday that at least one day of video from the early voting location had been deleted when it was overwritten.
Scott Forbes, the Anson County attorney, said the video is set to be recorded over every two weeks.
But the request for video from WBTV was acknowledged by both Melton and Paxton on October 28, one day before video from the first day of early voting would have been deleted.
According to Forbes, county IT staff did not take steps to preserve any video until at least November 1, which means additional days of video was likely also deleted.
So far, no explanation has been provided by anyone on behalf of the county as to why the video was not preserved after WBTV’s request.
Forbes said the county’s hardware containing the video that was not deleted had been provided to US Congressman Dan Bishop (NC-9), who also requested the video.